April 27, 2006

'Kaavya' gone sour?

I wonder if Kaavya Vishwanathan's current problems have to do with the fact that she is an Indian born to Brahmin parents living in the USA?

Young author admits borrowing passages

By Hillel Italie, AP National Writer April 24, 2006

NEW YORK --A Harvard University sophomore with a highly publicized first novel acknowledged Monday that she had borrowed material, accidentally, from another author's work and promised to change her book for future editions.

Kaavya Viswanathan's "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," published in March by Little, Brown and Company, was the first of a two-book deal reportedly worth six figures. But on Sunday, the Harvard Crimson cited seven passages in Viswanathan's book that closely resemble the style and language of the novels of Megan McCafferty.

"When I was in high school, I read and loved two wonderful novels by Megan McCafferty, `Sloppy Firsts' and `Second Helpings,' which spoke to me in a way few other books did. Recently, I was very surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities between some passages in my novel ... and passages in these books," Viswanathan, 19, said in a statement issued by her publisher.

"While the central stories of my book and hers are completely different, I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words. I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious. My publisher and I plan to revise my novel for future printings to eliminate any inappropriate similarities.

"I sincerely apologize to Megan McCafferty and to any who feel they have been misled by these unintentional errors on my part."

The book had a first printing of 100,000 copies.

Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch told The Associated Press on Monday that he did not think Viswanathan's borrowings were caused by the pressures of being both a student and an author.

Pietsch also declined to blame Viswanathan's collaboration with 17th Street Productions Inc., a book packager that specializes in teen narratives and helped her develop the story.

"Every word in that book was written by her, for better or for worse," he said, adding that work on a new edition would begin "tomorrow."

Viswanathan, who was 17 when she signed her contract with Little, Brown, is the youngest author signed by the publisher in decades. DreamWorks has already acquired the movie rights to her first book.

Viswanathan's novel tells the story of Opal, a hard-driving teen from New Jersey who earns straight A's in high school but who gets rejected from Harvard because she forgot to have a social life. Opal's father concocts a plan code-named HOWGAL (How Opal Will Get A Life) to get her past the admission's office.

McCafferty's books follow a heroine named Jessica, a New Jersey girl who excels in high school but struggles with her identity and longs for a boyfriend. McCafferty is a former editor at Cosmopolitan who has written three novels.


Associated Press Writer Andrew Ryan contributed to this story.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


Mr. J said...

Damn. That's sad, especially to end up on the wrong side in the first attempt.

Invincible said...

Oh she admitted borrowing the passages ?

While the central stories of my book and hers are completely different, I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words. I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious.
That's 'politically correct' statement. Wonder if that would appease Crown Publishing. I just hope the plagiarism lawsuit settles well.

Invincible said...

Well, i wont put too much behind the fact that she's of indian origin. Good to see her publisher backing her up for the next in line book.

Aditi said...

Well i think from what i read, that it was as many as 30 passages and the books have now been pulled from the shelves.
Well but what does that have to do with her indian origin though? Maybe its excessive pressure to succeed

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I certainly HOPE that her Indian Heritage has no bearing on this. Plagiarism has been in the forefront a lot these days. I watched her on the Today show, and thought she was so poised given the cicumstances. I don't know what to make of it all.


EXSENO said...

That is very sad. She may have very well, not realized what she had done, however the fact that she did use the same state,etc.makes it look bad. It's a shame that she didn't realize that when she was writing the book.

Although I have not read either of these books so I can not fairly judge.

Id it is said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't Indian kids under tremendous pressure to succeed, from their parents and their community as well? Getting into an Ivy League school is a life-goal for many of the Indian kids growing up in the US; especially if they belong to a certain caste.

Anonymous said...

The publisher has recalled all the books! Ms. McCafferty, the author from whose works Ms. Vishwanathan borrowed, has said that she will seek no restitution.

Suji said...

Yes, there is too much pressure on Indian kids to succeed. But that should not be an excuse to plagiarise for anybody.

Invincible said...

As far as i know, the kids born in the US naturally slip into the lifestyle of US kids. They are born americans so by n large they try to identify them with their US pals rather than their parents.

Pressure to succeed would definitely be there, i mean shouldnt it be there. I noticed u highlighted brahmin, the supposedly upper caste in india, who would expect their kids to be on top. But i dont think it wud be so much to steal someone else's work. And with Kavya already in Harvard, thats almost done.

Here is an interesting article.
It ponders why would Kavya plagiarise the work of a popular teenage writer who is a well-known name in college campus.

This article lists the similaries between Kavya's novel and Sloppy Firsts. Too many to turn a blind eye !!

HOWGAL said...

This is an "Inspired" Version!

Ajay said...

I guess this is just a coincidence.
Sad. that such a talent should be caught up in such a controversy at athe very beginning of her journey.

Saurabh said...

Hmm ...
Interesting read ...

Though this issue hasn't been covered in that depth out here (I was not aware of the plagiarism issue until I read your post), I was aware of the deal between her and the publishers and of Dreamworks buying the rights to the film.

Though I somehow doubt, that she would actually copy paste from one book to another, the statement that she gave, does give her the benefit of doubt.

And I've noticed, that when people are really impressed with other people, they start to mimic their styles of writing, speech etc ...

So maybe ...
But then again, 29 paras is a tad too much ... though I'll probably have to read both the books before I can judge more fairly.

Also, people do tend to sometimes go overboard analysing things that might be only remotely connected (Douglas Adams with the number 42 would be an excellent example)

Zeitgeist said...

It's easy to imbibe styles unconsciously I guess. But it's too much of a co-incidence, uncannily similar situations too, from what I've read and gathered.Pressure has nothing to do with it as invincible righty pointed out.There are no two ways about Plagiarism.As for that "content developing" company,..scurrying for the door now that the lights are switched on!Phiffft!

Raj said...

just a tad unlucky i'd say,i was lookin fwd to readin it!

Curious said...

duh!...plain unlucky..is what i wuld call this!

karmic_jay said...

I think the similarities are up to 41 passages now. I am not sure what caste has to do with this?
Then again I am a bit outside the "desi" mainstream in the US and have never had much room for things like caste.
Plagiarism has really no excuse.

Wild Reeds said...

Dear I Me My,
I dont think so. I remember this episode on Apprentice where this girl Toral tried to use her religion to hide her incompetence. She fell flat on her face. If Kavya has indeed plagiarised, the problems are entirely her own - Indian or not.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Uh oh, NOW there is another author pressing plagiarism claims.

Id it is said...

You're right here's another charge of plagiarism against her:

Fifth plagiarism charge against Kaavya

The novel by Indian American Kaavya Viswanathan, which was taken off the shelves last week after she acknowledged plagarism, seems to contain passages copied from yet another author.

At least three portions in the the debut novel by the Harvard University student "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life" have striking resemblances to "Can You Keep a Secret" by Sophie Kinsella, 'The New York Times' reported.

bablu said...

In India - musicians and movie makers regularly copy work from their western counterparts saying they are "inspired" by them. Guess Miss. V was inspired much the same.

Vijayeta said...

Sigh... internalizing does land one into trouble. Extreme internalizing!

Invincible said...

Looks like it's become a style now and Kavya scapegoat.
Within a month we'd know every single word on every single page is snapped from some place or other ! Even the dead would be brought to life to claim resemblace to a passage or two.
Kavya would be defendent in 100 law suits and her publisher'll have to cough up millions.

Id it is said...

You're right! this is becoming quite the witch hunt! They'll soon be crying 'plagiarism' on every single word in Kaavya's novel. This may sound like a complete turn around, but as far as I'm concerned the young lady has and is paying a big price for her mistake, and is repentant for what she's done (even if it's in a round about way)! I think it's time for all of us to let go and let her move on.

opinionatedinjerzee said...

i just think that the fact she is desi makes it a more interesting story.. first to see a desi in Harvard is phenomenol(cant even spell that) then her doing this is even jucier!!

nandi23 said...

she's 19, give her a break!!!
she apologised!
sometimes a book can influence our lives a lot. as if none of you ever read teenage books when you were growing up and had the plots playing over and over again in your mind!
maybe her next book written in her own words would be amazing?
point is she made a mistake.
if she does it again then maybe there's a problem.
just let the girl be.

Starkindler said...

Oh, for the love of Mike! Just because she may have written... Zarathustra, she hasn't even done that! She's just written stuff that coincidentally seems similar to some stuff that the McAfferty dame wrote. They're not even the same! I mean, if I write abouta superhero who saves the world, will I have Marvel, DC and the whole bloody superhero publishing industry come down on me for plagiarising superheroes? This is stupid! This woman should be judged by the quality of her writing, not stuff that she might have unconsciously picked up. They're not instances of copying or 'inspirations'. They're just influences, for goodness' sake! Read the book on merit. I know of a certain someone who has bought (or was desperately trying to buy) the book because it will soon become rare and a collector's item. Will such idiocy stop?